Scholarship/Fellowship Resources

Faculty and Staff Resources

Faculty and staff are THE MOST IMPORTANT campus resource for our students when they are applying for nationally competitive scholarships. There are many ways faculty and staff can get involved with the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships and support our students in their selection and application process. It is possible to host an informational session in your classroom or student event. You may have a student you would like to recommend to our office. Or you might be interested in becoming a campus advisor or interview panelist. No matter what your interest is, we value your time and energy in supporting our students in their endeavors.

Writing Recommendation Letters for Competitive Scholarships

When we advise students, one of the major topics we discuss is the selection of appropriate people to ask for letters of recommendation. We encourage students to consider the selection criteria and the audience, and identify individuals who are credible—in that they have the appropriate station or status with regard to this audience’s expectations—relevant, in that the connection between the referee’s sphere of influence and the candidate’s objectives is sensible—and timely, meaning that the referee knows the candidate well and the interactions with them were recent.

The most important thing that we can do to help students is to actually say ‘no’ when we feel that we cannot write a strong letter of recommendation for a student – either because we do not have adequate time, we do not know the student well, or that we simply don’t feel that we understand the context of the scholarship or that we are a relevant choice. This can be a delicate conversation, but the best way to approach it is to suggest that “I may not be the best choice to write for you in this situation.”

Assuming that the student has been conscientious and asked an appropriate person to compose a letter of support, the second phase (assuming the person agrees) is the writing process itself, which in reality is 30% writing and 70% preparation. The best thing a strong letter can do is to really differentiate the student from her peers and create a memorable impression of the student. You may want to ask yourself the following questions to generate some ideas about the student and the scholarship you will be writing to:

  • What makes this student different from her peers?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What do they need?
  • What can I share?
  • How does this opportunity support the student’s goals?
  • What are this student’s areas in need of improvement?

If you would like more information to draw on for writing strong recommendation letters, please browse the resources below, or contact our office for more information about specific awards and contexts.